Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Last week, NASA released images from its Mars rover Opportunity of a strange looking rock that was not in pictures taken weeks earlier of the same swath of Martian surface. The “sudden” appearance of the rock spurred speculation that the rock was in fact an alien life form.
While, NASA quickly dismissed speculation by saying the rock was simply kicked out by one of Opportunity’s wheels or knocked toward the rover by a nearby impact – theories persisted and now an author and self-described scientist is suing NASA over its failure to investigate the potential discovery of alien life.
Aimed at NASA and its administrator Charles Bolden, the lawsuit filed by Rhawn Joseph is calling for the space agency to “perform a public, scientific, and statutory duty which is to closely photograph and thoroughly scientifically examine and investigate a putative biological organism.”
The images at the center of the lawsuit are from Opportunity’s panoramic camera (Pancam): one from 3,528th Martian day, or sol, which was taken on Dec. 26, 2013, and one from Sol 3540, taken on Jan. 8, 2014. The rock is mostly white, with a portion that is deep red in color. Some have compared it to a smashed jelly donut. The images were taken on Murray Ridge, a section of the rim of Endeavour Crater where Opportunity is working on north-facing slopes during the rover’s sixth Martian winter.
The lawsuit asserted that the “rock” is actually a living organism that grew until it became visible.
“(W)hen examined by Petitioner the same structure in miniature was clearly visible upon magnification and appears to have just germinated from spores,” the suit said. “The refusal to take close up photos from various angles, the refusal to take microscopicimages [sic] of the specimen, the refusal to release high resolution photos, is inexplicable, recklessly negligent, and bizarre.”
Joseph has contacted multiple NASA officials, but received no response, according to the lawsuit.
“Petitioner has specifically requested and has demanded in writing the following of NASA, NASA’s chief administrator Bolden, and NASA’s rover team: A) take 100 high resolution close-up infocus [sic] photos of the specimen identified in Sol 3540, at various angles, from all sides, and from above down into the “bowl” of the specimen, and under appropriate lighting conditions which minimize glare. B) Take a minimum of 24 microscopic in-focus images of the exterior, lip, walls, and interior of the specimen under appropriate lighting conditions. C) NASA, and the rover team must make public and supply Petitioner with all high resolution photos and images of that specimen as demanded in A and B,” the suit said.
Last week, a newly published study based on data collected from the Opportunity rover found that an ancient wet environment existed on Mars that was milder and older than the acidic and oxidizing conditions told by rocks the rover examined previously.
“These rocks are older than any we examined earlier in the mission, and they reveal more favorable conditions for microbial life than any evidence previously examined by investigations with Opportunity,” said study author Ray Arvidson, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis.